Monday, October 31, 2005

A Study on Shoes

I love the Word of God. I love to study the Word. Well, Sunday morning I was doing my morning devotion in the book of Joshua. I was reading the fifth chapter, and when I came to verse fifteen, I seemed to get stuck. I haven’t been able to get this verse out of my spirit. Here is the verse:

“And the captain of the LORD'S host said unto Joshua, Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest [is] holy. And Joshua did so.” Joshua 5:15

Of course, we know that Joshua’s mentor, Moses, had the same experience when God first called him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. I have always wondered what the removal of the shoes could mean. After all, God could speak to us no matter what we wear, look like, or where we are. So I began to study out the purpose of shoe removal in Bible times. What I found was quite interesting. Also, I should say that the purpose of blogging this today is really a study. I would be more than happy to read what other people think of this happening in the Bible.

First of all, shoes were never worn indoors. So for one to put shoes on meant that there was some kind of activity or work to be done. Could God have been telling Joshua that the job at hand of leading His people into the land of Canaan was His job? Joshua was to follow God’s leading, and not to try to work out his own plan. Often, in our zeal to fulfill God’s will, we try to “make things happen” when it seems that God is not moving, or not moving at the rate we would like Him to. We can look at Abraham, with the Hagar ordeal, or Jacob and his mother trying to make God’s promise come to pass through their own deceitful means. That is not to say we should not exercise foresight and wisdom, but that above all, “Except the LORD build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Ps.127:1).

Shoes were not worn in a Holy place. The presence of God made the place holy, or set apart. Since shoes were used for everyday stuff, walking in all the common areas of life, to bring what is common to what is set apart for God was wrong. We must remember that God is Holy. Everything He does is Holy. We must never treat the Holy purposes of God as something common. Joshua was to realize that what God was ordaining him to do was holy, and needed to be treated as holy.

Shoes were removed in an act of humiliation. When a man refused to do his job of taking his dead brother’s wife as his own, to raise up a child in his brother’s name, he was publicly humiliated. This was done by being spit upon by his brother’s widow, and having his shoe removed (Deut. 25:7-10). Also, it was a custom for one to relinquish his right to property, as seen in the story of Boaz and the kinsmen-redeemer that declined to take Ruth and the piece of property that was Naomi’s late husbands. Joshua was forfeiting any right to his own will. He was humbling himself before God, realizing that only God’s way in the right way. Also, let us remember that we must humble ourselves before the Lord, because if we don’t, He certainly knows how to.

Finally, only the very poor and slaves had no shoes. Joshua needed to realize, as we do, that we are impoverished without the Lord Jesus. Even if we have great wealth and abundance, we are still in need of God.

Well, that is all for now. I pray that this in some way blesses you. And, as I said before, feel free to post your views on this topic. We are all taking this walk with Christ one step at a time, so if anyone has insight I haven’t got, I want to hear it. God bless.

Friday, October 28, 2005

Change, Change, and More Change!

Hebrews 13:8
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

We live in a world of change, don’t we? People change. Fads change. Styles change. Ideologies change. In fact, it has been said that the only constant is change. Today, I became personally affected by change. I found out that the company where I’ve worked for the past ten years has sold out several of its product lines, including the one I work in. The good news is, that the new company I work for, and I stress new, because it is a newly established business, is launching with a big workforce of employees that have been shifted to this new company. Not one job has been lost. So, while things have changed, some will stay the same. Yes, change is everywhere.

The writer of Hebrews understood that change played a big part of their lives. You see, they were afraid for their lives. You could have been killed for faith in Jesus Christ. Many of the believers were contemplating a return to Judaism. But in the midst of all of the change, and all the fear and running, these folks could have the assurance of One that will never change- the Lord Jesus Christ! These people had built the house upon the Rock. And though the world was turbulent and changing all around them, they needed to be assured that Jesus was always with them.

In today’s world, there is a lot of fear. Will there be a job for me tomorrow? Will the stock market crash? You name it, there is uncertainty attached. But, brethren, be assured that this whole world can pass away, but out confidence can remain fixed on the One who never changes- the Lord Jesus Christ! God bless.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

A Praise in the Darkness

Last night was a hard night for me. I didn’t sleep very well. I must admit, I was under a great deal of fear and anxiety. Is it just me, or do fears seem to grow when the lights are out, and you are trying to sleep? Anyone who reads my blog on a regular basis knows that my family and I are going through an extremely hard time right now financially. It sounds almost selfish to me to mention that, because these are hard financial times right now. I don’t like to talk about that in this blog, though, because it’s my desire to minister to those who read this. Well, that is still my plan.

When I tried to go to sleep last night, as I’ve already said, fear took a death grip on me. I lay in bed in anxiety, praying to God to help me. It felt like every demonic force in hell was attacking me. So, I got up, walked out into my darkened living room, and began to seek God. I prayed, I cried out to Him, I praised Him just because He’s God. I then turned the light on, and grabbed my Bible, and began to read aloud the Word of God. Because I know that I’m not the only one who deals with such fear, I decided to type out some scriptures I read last night that helped.

“But you, O Lord, are a shield around me, my glory, and the one who lifts my head high. I cried out to the Lord, and he answered me from his holy mountain. Interlude. I lay down and slept. I woke up in safety, for the Lord was watching over me.” Ps. 3:3-5

“I sought the LORD, and he heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.” Ps. 34:4

“Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee: because he trusteth in thee” Isaiah 26:3

“Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” John 14:27

“Now the God of Peace be with you all. Amen” Rom. 15:33

“Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God. And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” Phil. 4:6-7

Read these verses of scripture. If you have some more, read those as well. Feel free to post scripture in the comment section. Remember, though we all deal with certain degrees of fear and anxiety, press through and trust God. True faith, as I’ve said before, doesn’t eradicate difficulty, in weathers it. God knows what you and I need, and He has said He would meet those needs. So, don’t give up, and don’t let fear paralyze you. Lift up praise to God, and thank Him for what He’s doing in your life. Continue to pray for me, and I will for you. God bless, friends.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Kids Say the Darnedest Things

Hebrews 5:12-14 NLT
“You have been Christians a long time now, and you ought to be teaching others. Instead, you need someone to teach you again the basic things a beginner must learn about the Scriptures.* You are like babies who drink only milk and cannot eat solid food. 13 And a person who is living on milk isn't very far along in the Christian life and doesn't know much about doing what is right. 14 Solid food is for those who are mature, who have trained themselves to recognize the difference between right and wrong and then do what is right.”

I believe it was Bill Cosby that had a show out for a while which was entitled, “Kids Say the Darnedest Things”. Everyone watching would get a good laugh at the funny and cute things little kids would do and say. As a parent, I have found myself seemingly in a perpetual episode of that show, as I’m sure all parents have. I found myself thinking about some of the times when my kids said the darnedest things as I sat at work last night. One of those more recent times was a couple of weeks ago, as I sat at home one night, having just put my six and three and a half year old daughters to bed for the night. As I sat on the couch watching TV, I heard the familiar sound of the girls playing upstairs. Knowing the early waking time in my home, I sternly hollered up the stairs for the girls to quit playing and get back in bed. I was shocked (and quite amused) by what my younger daughter actually told me. “Daddy, you just be quiet!” I’ll just let you know, my little girl received a lesson in talking to Daddy like that, and she hasn’t since then. What makes kids say stuff like that? It’s just how they are. My kids have grown up in a home that honors Jesus Christ above all, so it’s neat when we hear them out of the blue start talking about God and Jesus. But just as they can talk about God, they can turn on a dime and start talking like my daughter spoke to me. It’s really just a child’s maturity level.

We can get like that spiritually, can’t we? The Bible admonishes us in several places to “grow up”. Some places it’s said nicely, other places, like in our passage today, it’s much more direct. I know there are times in my personal walk with God that I am tempted to revert back to being a “baby Christian”, and begin to whine to God. Perhaps it’s those times when we’ve been praying and praying for God to do something, or give us something, and the answer is “no”. Maybe there are times when we find ourselves spiritually “pouting”, because things didn’t work out like we hoped they would. Maybe we’ve even taken a mouthy attitude toward the Lord when He has asked us to do something we don’t want to do, like pray for someone that has mistreated us. Let’s remember that the Bible tells us to put away childish things. We don’t see things too clearly right now. But, we can trust that the Lord sees all and knows exactly what we need, when we need it.

I’m reminded of yesterday’s blog, about the disciples panicking in the storm. Immaturity in the things of God causes us to look only on what we see in front of us. But, just as the Lord knew exactly what was happening on that lake, so He knows exactly what is happening in our lives. Over and over, we are told in the Bible to “grow up”. True growth looks beyond our selfish reasoning, trusting that God knows best. So, let’s not be like my two-year old son, who for some strange reason has the urge to repeatedly try and explore the oven, and gets mad when Mommy stops him from opening the door. Mommy just knows what’s best. When God tells us no, just know that He knows best. God bless.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

The Other Side of Faith

Mark 4:35
And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

I just read some articles by some of the more popular preachers. It seems from what some of these people preach that living for Jesus is nothing but roses. I do believe that God wants to bless us. He wants to give us abundant life. But that doesn’t mean that He won’t use hardship in our lives to mold us into what He desires us to be.

We hear the passage above, and we give the Lord Jesus praise for being the “peace speaker”. And we should praise Him for calming storms in our lives. But notice what He said to His disciples after He calmed the storm. “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Come again, Jesus? Let’s flash back to what He initially said to the disciples. He said, “let us pass over to the other side” (v.35). They already had His word that they were going to make it. The storm was not calmed because of their great faith, it was calmed because of their lack of faith.

How often do we encounter storms in our lives? This passage should give us comfort in knowing that on our journey, as we progress in our walk with Christ that storms will arise, but we will make it to the other side. True faith is not seen in calming the storm, it’s seen in weathering the storm. In the book of Hebrews, we all know of the “Hall of Faith”, the eleventh chapter. And in this chapter we read about some of the victories that faith brought to those who trusted God. But somewhere around the thirty-sixth verse, we begin to read about those who encountered severe storms. They were mocked, beaten, imprisoned, stoned, sawn in half (ouch!), and killed with the sword. Yet, all these had faith! They trusted God, in spite of their circumstances.

True faith is not about living well, with no bumps in the road. True faith isn’t about money in the bank. It’s about trusting God-period. So hang in there with me, wait out the storms in your life, and let God mold you into the man or woman of God He has called you to be! God bless!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Thumbs and Big Toes

Judges 1:6-7
Then Adoni-Bezek fled, and they pursued him and caught him and cut off his thumbs and big toes. 7 And Adoni-Bezek said, "Seventy kings with their thumbs and big toes cut off used to gather scraps under my table; as I have done, so God has repaid me." Then they brought him to Jerusalem, and there he died.

Have you ever thought about the uses of certain parts of the human body? Like, what is the appendix really for? Or, do we really need our pinky fingers? Do the eyebrows really serve a purpose? We can be assured that each part of our body has a God- ordained purpose. But try to imagine going through life having lost a part of the body that is essential, such as a leg or an arm.

In the passage above, the Israelites had captured an enemy king, Adoni-Bezek, and cut off his thumbs and big toes. We find that this wicked king had done the same to those he had captured. As he had done, it was now done to him.

What would this king’s purpose be in cutting off people’s big toes and thumbs? Really, it rendered them defenseless in battle. Without their thumbs, they could not hold on to the swords. And since the big toe plays a big part in walking, not having them made them pretty much immobile.

So, what is the picture for us nowadays? We also have an enemy, and he’s not interested in your physical thumbs and toes. But he does want to incapacitate you. Just as the loss of the thumb for those ancient soldiers meant that they could not grip their swords, so the enemy wants to cause us to lose our grip on the Sword of the Spirit, the word of God. How does he do that? He will use our trials and hard times to cause us to doubt the Word. He also uses distractions and busyness to keep us from the Word.

But he also wants to “cut off our toe”. Without the big toes, walking is severely hindered. The Devil wants to hinder our walk in Christ. He wants nothing more than to render us lame in our relationship with the Lord, by various temptations to sin, and by the cares of life. If he can keep us in sin, he can keep us in guilt in shame, and in so doing, keep us out of the presence of God.

Remember friends, Satan wants to make you ineffective, because he knows that those who are truly sold-out, crucified Christians will cause the kingdom of darkness great harm. God bless.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Accepted in the Beloved!

“…to the praise of the glory of His grace, wherein He hath made us accepted in the beloved” Ephesians 1:6

Before I get into the devotion today, please continue to pray for me concerning my post from yesterday, “A Little Weak Today”. I am still battling fear as I mentioned both in the original blog, and in the comments as people were reaching out with encouragement and prayers. But I am reaching through the fear and anxiety today to share what I believe God has placed on my heart.

I was listening to an online sermon yesterday. I had heard this message before, but something this time really spoke to me. I won’t quote word for word what was preached, but I believe this is a message we all need to hear. It deals with God’s acceptance of us.

How many of us have found ourselves on the wounded end of an offense? How many of us have maybe even told the offending party, “I forgive you, but I can’t trust you.” Or, “I forgive you, but I can’t have the same relationship anymore”. That is forgiveness without acceptance. I think that as Christians, there is a fear that sometimes lurks in the back of our minds that says, “Sure, God forgives me, but I’ve messed up too much to have the same relationship with Him”. It doesn’t make sense to us on a human level, because we have too hard a time doing that with each other. A wife may forgive her husband for adultery, but trust and acceptance is not an instant thing. But God accepts us immediately. He says to “come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16). He tells us that we have “boldness to enter the holiest by the blood of Jesus” (see Heb. 10:19). He not only forgives us, He accepts us!

I think of the Prodigal son. Here was a young man that insulted his dad by demanding his share of the inheritance. Basically, he told his dad that he couldn’t wait for him to die. He wanted his money ASAP! He went off and blew the cash, and found himself in poverty. While feeding hogs, he decided to go home, and try to have his dad hire him as a servant. As he was going home, his father saw him. The boy recognized the forgiveness in the hug and kiss. He knew that his dad had forgiven his sin. But what he did not expect was the ring, the robe, and the shoes. He didn’t expect the party, and the fatted calf. He did not expect to be accepted back as a son. But that was what he was, a son.

Friends, no matter how we mess us, let us remember that God always accepts us. He gives us access to Himself. You may have wandered into the mire of the pigpen, but there are new shoes, a ring, and a robe of righteousness waiting for you! Your Father has accepted you! God bless.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

A Little Weak Today

I hate doing this. My purpose from the beginning of this blog was to use it as tool to minister to those who happen to stumble across it. To give my brothers and sisters in Christ some encouragement, possibly when they most need it. Sometimes, that has happened right in the middle of a battle for me, when it seems hardest to reach out. Today is one of those days. I am in need of prayer.

I often think of David during these times. Just a simple read into my archives of previous posts reveals that. But there is another person I think about, and even as I am writing this impromptu blog, he popped into my head. Elijah, the prophet of old. In his weakest, weariest hour he found himself just wanting to go home and be with the Lord. Everything seemed to be against him. As he was running for his life, he had all he could take, sat down under a tree and requested that he might die. Now, don't worry, I'm not wishing death on myself, but I feel like I'm at the end of my rope right now. I have a lot of things closing in on me, financially, I can't take care of any of them, except one.

I know that God is faithful. I also know His timing is not our timing. And like the old song says, "He may not come when you want Him, but He'll be there right on time. He's an on-time God". It's in times like I'm in currently that God uses to test us. In the waiting. The acid test of time. He is purifying me through this time. He's preparing me through it. Please, friends, when you read this, pray for me. God Bless.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

James 2:14-17

“What use is it, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but he has no works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is without clothing and in need of daily food,
and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, be warmed and be filled,’ and yet you do not give them what is necessary for {their} body, what use is that? Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, {being} by itself.”

As I was driving into work this morning, I was listening to the local Christian radio station. One of the hosts was talking about the book of James. I can’t remember what he talking about specifically, but it did get me thinking. I began to meditate on the above scriptures.

There has been a lot of controversy surrounding this passage throughout the years. Some feel that the Bible actually contradicts itself here. After all, Paul taught us that salvation is by grace through faith, without works, and James taught that without works, faith is dead. A good reading of James shows us, however, that he was not teaching a works- based salvation. He was telling us that true faith should have vital signs.

People can talk a good game. There are many that profess faith in Jesus Christ. James was telling us that those with “real faith” will be revealed by the outworking of that faith. He gave us the example, quoted above, of a destitute person, totally impoverished, with absolutely nothing. We are not to simply bless the person verbally, but to reach out and help them. That is what distinguishes “lip service” from the real deal. Even Paul told us that “faith worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). Jesus also differentiates between merely professed faith and faith that shows itself. We all know the story of Matthew 25, when Jesus will at that day separate the sheep and the goats. “Insomuch as ye did unto the least of these my brethren, ye did unto me” (Mt. 25:40). If we are truly saved, then what we believe will be demonstrated by what we do.

Take the time today to reach out to someone. Tell them about our wonderful Savior, and then show them Jesus through your actions. I pray that this blog blesses you today. Just another trip into the sometimes scary place called my head!

Monday, October 17, 2005

Oct. 17, 2005 Part 2

I've never posted 2 blogs in one day before. I just had to tonight. I don't know how many have experienced those strong moments when God simply arrests you, and tells you to pray. That is what happened to me an hour ago. I had laid my 2 year old son down on the couch to go to sleep, and settled down to listen to an online sermon. Suddenly, the urge to enter into intercessory prayer weighed me down. Now, I try to give my prayer life a high priority, and spend much of my time daily in an attitude of prayer, praise and worship, even while I'm working. But there are times when the Holy Spirit leads us to prayer. I don't even know what I was praying about, or who I was praying for. I began to cry out to the Lord, and started praying in tongues. Before long, I was groaning deeply. According to Romans 8:26, the Holy Spirit was praying through me- I simply did not have words to put to my prayer. I am exhausted. I can still sense the Spirit of the Lord.

On another note, continue to pray for us as we begin to step out and plant a church. I've spent some time praying, seeking guidance from the Lord, and picking the brain of a good brother in Christ and friend who has stepped out and started a church. I've been brainstorming for ways to start the ministry up, and looking for an inexpensive location to meet at. I also spent some time talking with my pastor, and doing some brainstorming over the phone. God is leading us. Keep my wife and I in your prayers as we take this huge step. Thank you, and God bless!

Oct. 17, 2005

Dueteronomy. 22:8 "When thou buildest a new house, then thou shalt make a battlement for thy roof, that thou bring not blood upon thine house, if any man fall from thence."

In my trip through the book of Deuteronomy, I came to the 22nd chapter today. While I've read some real spirit-provoking things, this stood out to me. The ancient Israelites had houses with flat roofs. For the safety of whoever may have needed to go up on the roof, the homeowner would build a low wall, or battlement, around the roof's perimeter. History says that it was probably 3 1/2 feet high. This really protected both the homeowner and whoever was up on the roof. You see, if someone still managed to fall off the roof with a retaining wall in place, it means he was more than likely being negligent, and the homeowner was not responsible for whatever may have happened. If, on the other hand, the owner of the house failed to put the wall up, he was responsible for whatever happened.

How does this relate to us in the body of Christ? The bible tells us to not to look out for our ourselves only, but to look out for others as well. It also tells us to mind our weaker brother. Paul used the example of one who could eat meat without damage to his conscience, but abstained for the sake of his brother who felt it wrong. Don't cause your brother or sister in Christ to stumble. What are the "Romans 14" issues today? This is how we "build the wall". Remember, "but take heed, lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak" (1 Cor. 8:9). With this in mind, let us "build the wall" around the roof our lives, and so do well in protecting those around us.

Friday, October 14, 2005

Oct. 14, 2005

John 4:4-30

I was challenged by something I read today. It was written by a preacher friend in his blog. To read his blog, Click Here. But what he spoke of was how we tend to chase after the material things of this world, only to find that there is no lasting fulfillment. Man, can I relate to that! I love "stuff". I have always loved video games. I can't help it, I'm part of the "Atari 2600" generation. There was always Pitfall or River Raid or some other game out there that I just had to play. And with the advances in gaming technology, what's coming out now is mindblowing. For years now, I've wanted an XBox. Every time the money was there to actually get one, something else of much greater importance came up. Finally, after years, my brother decided to let me use his, until he finishes his basement, and puts a home theater system down there. But you know what, I don't really care for it anymore. It wasn't the awesome experience everyone made it out to be. It now it just sits on my entertainment center collecting dust. How unfulfilling!

I know, it's such a weak analogy. When there are people out there killing themselves to find purpose and meaning in life through empty pursuits such as business, possessions, or even hard core stuff like drugs and booze, my own pursuits seem so petty. But it reminds me of the woman at the well in John 4. Here was a woman who thought her answer was only to be found in the tangible. And even when Jesus pressed her for her lifestyle, she got religious and thought maybe the answer was there. But it wasn't about the tangible, whether water, or the right "place" to worship. Her need was the abiding presence of Christ in her life, His Spirit welling up inside her. Only He can satisfy the longing soul. And I love what she did next. Verse 28 says she "left her waterpot". She laid aside that which she thought would meet her need, because she found out that Christ alone had what she needed.

Friends, lets allow Jesus have open access to our lives, and let Him drive out the sin and "stuff" that keeps us away from Him. If you read this, and you've never made Jesus Christ your Lord and Savior, open up your heart to Him. He died for you, so that through Him you can be forgiven of your sins. And He rose again by the Power of the Holy Spirit, and that same Spirit will well up in you as springs of living water. God bless.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Oct. 13, 2005

"Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset [us], and let us run with patience the race that is set before us" Hebrews 12:1

Have you ever felt like you just can't make it? Have you felt like your entire world was collapsing in on top of you? If you haven't, hang on, and you will. That was what these Hebrew Christians felt like. They were under heavy persecution for their faith in Jesus Christ, and lived in constant fear of prison, torture, and even death. When the writer mentioned the "weight" that was holding them back, this was what he was talking about.

As they were dealing with these fears and worries daily, they were starting to consider turning from Christ, and going back to Judaism. Tell, me, have you ever heard, or even said yourself, "life just seemed easier before salvation"? I'll be honest, I have. Not only were these folks saying that, they were seriously thinking about renouncing the faith that they held so precious. These fears were a major encumbrance to them, and it was causing some to turn from the path of uprightness.

Let's fast forward to our day. I tell you, we can worry with the best of them. In much of the world today, many are still being killed for their faith in Christ. Here in America, we aren't facing that. Sure, we may take a ribbing from our co-workers, family and friends for our faith, but dying for Christ isn't really happening here. Yet fears still abound. You name, we experience it. Rising fuel costs, medical expenses going up, and job cuts only add to our stress. Worries of family neglect while trying to make ends meet keep us up at night. Wondering how the already late mortgage and car payments will be made weigh us down. And for you precious pastors, add the pressures of the church on top of it all.

I love the illustration the writer uses. A runner in a race. That is what our walk with Christ is. Let me ask you, how many times have you ever seen a runner go the starting block in heavy sweat clothes, and work boots? My guess is never. No, they wear the lightest clothing they can. They put on the lightest running shoes possible. They don't want anything to hinder them as they race for the finish line. Yet, just like those Hebrews Christians, our fears and worries hold us back. Not only that, we are turning away from the path of righteousness, because we're just too bogged down.

My friend, let me encourage you today. The scripture tells us to cast our burden upon the Lord, and He will sustain us (Ps. 55:22). Peter echoes this as well: "casting all of your cares upon Him; for He careth for you" (1 Pet. 5:7). Our Lord does not want us to go around constantly in fear. It sounds like a cliche, but give your burdens to Him. Let His peace guard your heart and mind. God has promised us that He will see this work that He has begun through to its completion. And He will supply for our every need in Christ. Look up, my friend, and focus your affection and attention on Jesus. Press on in this race toward the finish line! God bless.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Oct. 12, 2005

1 Cor. 9:24-27 "Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but {only} one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win.
Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control in all things. They then {do it} to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable.
Therefore I run in such a way, as not without aim; I box in such a way, as not beating the air;
but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.

I was thinking back to when I was a teenager. Coming from a divorced home, I spent weekends with my mom and stepdad. One of the things that I remember from my times spent there were the neighbors two doors down. They had a daughter my age who had the meanest underhand pitch I've ever seen. She pitched for her high school softball team. Every time I was there, on warm summer evenings, I would hear the smack of a high speed softball in a catcher's mitt. With her dad behind the plate, she would practice her pitch. Over and over again, she would whip an underhand softball faster than I could throw an overhand baseball! What made her the softball player that she was? The endless practice sessions.

The apostle Paul at times would use the example of an athlete. Striving to win the race, and even boxing, being on target with the punches. That is what our life in Christ is like. But just as any athlete that is worth his salt, we must practice. Allow me to expound. A champ is not made on the field or track, but in the everyday workout. Champs are not made in the ring, as I heard one preacher say, they are only recognized there.

We love those times where it seems that all of heaven has come to meet us, like in a service where the Holy Spirit is really moving and changing people. But that doesn't happen everyday! You have to go to get up on Monday morning to face life. You have received the blessing of God, now it's time to put it into practice. That means we go off to work, realizing that we aren't just doing enough to make the boss think we're working hard, but really working hard as to God. It's putting into practice our prayer life. It's singing and making music in our hearts to the Lord, in spite of how we feel. It's incorporating God's Word into our everyday existence. It's living life in the everyday for Him, knowing that He shows up in the everyday! Some of the most awesome times of witnessing for me have been outside the church, just making "the most of every opportunity".

We all love to read Acts chapter 2. We rejoice at God's pouring out of the Holy Ghost. But the apostles couldn't live out their days in the upper room, they had to come down. And in chapter 3, we find them doing what they were supposed to do, going to the temple at the hour of prayer. And guess what? God showed up in their everyday! He healed a man who was crippled from birth! He will show up in our everyday, too. Use your today and everyday to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! God bless.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Oct. 10, 2005

How many times have you been watching a football game, and someone was just a little too antsy at the line of scrimmage before the play starts, and is penalized for a "false start", or even encroachment? It's not that the player necessarily chose to break the rules, but the excitement of the moment caused them to move before it was time.

I think that in life, and especially in ministry, the drive to launch before all is ready is extremely tempting. I speak from personal experience. Having been in spots where acted before the proper time, without the Lord's leading, I can say with some certainty, it pays to submit to the Lord's timetable. I have been a licensed minister for more than five years now. When I first got my license, I thought I was ready to take on the world, and win it for Christ. Sure, I preached when I could, but looking back at those first five years, I am thanking God that He kept me in a spot where I could do the necessary learning required of pastoral ministry. Neither myself, or my wife were ready to face the trials that come with ministry.

There are two people to look at in the bible, and they illustrate for us both patience and hastiness. First, let's look at David. He was shepherd. And, God used his time in the field to train him, to teach him. David was able to use his experience with the sheep in his battle with Goliath. He told Saul, in not so many words, "this giant will be like the lion and the bear". But David was patient. Even as he was an armor- bearer for the king, he still worked in the field with the sheep. And it is through his shepherding experience that God showed him how to lead his people.

Now, let's look at the flipside. Saul was told by the Prophet Samuel to wait seven days for him to come and offer a sacrifice to God, and receive instruction for the next move (1 Sam. 10:8). But, as we read in chapter 13, Saul got a little impatient, and took it upon himself to offer the sacrifice, because Samuel hadn't yet shown up. If he had waited a little while longer, Samuel would have shown up, and all would have been good. But, because of his rashness and hastiness, his kingdom would not continue, his future dynasty would never come to be. One hasty decision to move ahead of God was his ruin.

My prayer is that God will keep me where I'm at until it is His time to send my forth. This is my prayer for you, as well. Whether God has called you to pastor, or to simply be a light of Christ where you are, let God mold you. Let Him use this time to make you the man or woman He has called you be.

Friday, October 07, 2005

Oct. 7, 2005

I think I'm going to take a break from my "devotional" style blog today. Not that I don't love preaching, even if that takes a written form for now. So, please humor me as I simply share what's been on my heart as of late.

My wife and I have long sensed that God is leading us to start a ministry, a church to be precise. Our desire has always been in an inner-city setting. We've always wanted to go where the need is, and be the hands and feet of Jesus, meeting the physical needs of the people, and of course giving them the Gospel. Other than several years of youth ministry, we have no idea how to go about starting such a ministry up. Someone I am acquainted with put me in touch with a pastor in a large city, and I spoke with him yesterday afternoon about our desire. I got a lot of great advice. One of the great pieces of advice was indeed helpful, and one my wife has actually suggested in times past. That is, working on staff at an existing church. While I am an associate minister at my church, my role is limited, because I have a full time job I have to work. So, all who read this, please pray for us. We want to make the right decision, and be sure that we are following the Lord's leading.

When you know that God is calling you somewhere, at least in my experience, it becomes really easy to jump the gun, and leave the blocks before it's time. Or at least be tempted to do so. So, keep us in prayer as are being prepared God's ministry.

God Bless

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Oct. 6, 2005

Hebrews 1:3 "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high"

Lately, I've been making more of an effort to spend much more time with the Lord than I have in the past. More time in prayer, praise, worship, and the study of His Word. As a result, these past few weeks have been amazing! No, you would be able to tell simply by looking at me. I see no outward manifestations of God's blessings. But His blessings are there.

One thing that has resulted is that I am seeing the Lord Jesus in a bigger and bigger way. More and more, I see Him for who He is- the Almighty God, the Lord of Heaven and earth!

Yet, think how humbling that is, that the God of the universe chose to put on human skin, and become a man, so that He could redeem us. The One who "upholds all things by the word of His power" has personally paid the debt I never could. Never has such Majesty and grace and mercy come together. It could only be done by our Almighty God.
To think that the One who flung the incalculable stars into place, and even knows each star by name, cares enough for me to die for me. The God whom the Bible says holds the oceans in the hollow of His hand, loves me enough to care about the tear that runs down my cheek on a bad day! What a wonderful Savior!

What is it that is giving you trouble in your life? Whether sin, fears, or just life's situations and snares, look at Jesus for who He is in all His Glory. Praise Him, for He is worthy of all praise! And with David, let us say, "O magnify the Lord with me! Let us exalt His name together" (Ps. 34:3)!

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Oct. 5, 2005

1 Thessalonians 5:17- "Pray without ceasing."

In the last few weeks, we've had to get a DSL connection for our home computer, as my wife has an online class this semester. What a change from standard dial-up! Now, family photos can be downloaded, or uploaded so other relatives and friends can see them, at incredibly fast speeds. And, praise God, I can download sermon MP3 files quickly! It's computer heaven. What makes DSL so neat is a constant, dedicated connection. There's really no lag time, because there is a constant connection.

If you think about it, this is what our lives are supposed to be like. We should have a constant connection with our Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord taught us that we should "always pray, and not faint" (Luke 18:1). Paul told us to "pray without ceasing" (1 Thess. 5:17). But how do we accomplish this? Certainly, we can't spend all of our time on our knees, crying out to God, can we?

I think what Paul is telling us is that we need to keep open and connected with the Lord. We need to stay in an attitude of prayer, spiritually "online". This is done through living a life of praise, prayer, and worship. We need to incorporate these disciplines in our everyday lives. Paul said it this way, "And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph. 5:18-20). When we stay in this attitude of prayer, we are keeping the line uncluttered. God has our attention. Then, that's when He can call on us in times of need, when specific prayer is needed. Let's keep our line of communication with our Lord open. Let's keep the fellowship that both we and the Lord desire kindled. "Pray without ceasing".

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Oct. 4, 2005

How often do you see the good in the situations you find yourself in? I mean, even when your world seems to rapidly be falling apart. Not just when you have a flat, or are late for work. How about when the bill collectors are calling you, when the kids are battling sickness, or you lose your job? It's easy to find yourself praising and thanking God when all is well. It's quite another to do so when all is falling apart.

I was reading in my trek through Deuteronomy today, in the eighth chapter, when God told the Israelites that He was bringing them into a good land, a land with brooks of water, and fountains that sprang from both the valleys and the hills. What an amazing picture of our walk with Christ! While we haven't entered into a physical land as Israel did, we certainly live in spiritual "land". Our relationship with Christ is marked by the mountaintops and valleys of life. Both the high points and low points. But the blessing is that there is water flowing. "Out of your belly shall flow rivers of living water". The Holy Spirit is our Helper, as Jesus said, and He longs to help us and comfort us , no matter how grave or how good the situation. Not only that, but the passage in Deuteronomy eight further mentions the other blessings awaiting them- wheat, barley, vines, pomegranates, olive oil, etc.- there was fruitfulness in the land. So it is here. No matter the circumstance you find yourself in, realize, God wants that to be a fruitful place. Bear fruit were you're at. Remember, friends, "in all things give thanks, for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you" (1 Thess. 5:18).

Monday, October 03, 2005

Oct. 3, 2005

Battles abound, don't they? Whether on the battlefields of Iraq, or the football fields of America, or in the courts, or in the home, one thing is certain, battles abound. Being a follower of Christ does not exempt us from the battles of life. Life isn't a bed of roses once being saved. Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble, but be of good cheer, for I have overcome the world".

I was reading Deuteronomy last night, in chapter seven. I read where God spoke to them about entering into the land of Canaan. He told them that there were seven nations greater and mightier than they were. But, with God on there side, there would be victory. But, He warned them not to make a covenant with the people they would defeat, nor show them mercy. It would lead to not only a toleration of their wicked lifestyle, but a partaking of it, even giving their children to each other in marriage.

We must remember that our battles, whether it be with the forces of darkness, or with our carnality, or even with our fears, are too mighty for us on our own. To try to take on Satan alone, apart from God's power would be foolish, as well as taking on our fleshly nature apart from the cross. But praise God, we aren't fighting this battle alone, for God is with us! And, as Romans 8:31 says, if God is for us, who can be against us? "I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength". That was Paul's testimony, and it's ours, too.

One last word, when you fight, don't make a covenant with enemy. Don't make peace with what has held you back on the journey to fulfilling God's plan for your life. Don't decide that you'll never really have victory over that thing. Don't decide that it's really not as bad as it seemed. That which keeps you away from all that Christ has for you must be defeated, and regarded as dead. Engage your enemy, and show no mercy!